Dubai: Andy Murray, former world No.1 and one of the few top men’s players who has backed the cause of gender equality in tennis, said that the idea of a merger of the men and women’s tennis bodies need endorsement from more male players. Roger Federer, the Swiss master, suggested the idea recently with a view to increase the sport’s sustainability in a post-COVID world.
‘‘I think it’s great if more of the male players are seeing it as a positive step for the sport. There’s obviously going to be some issues, potentially with a merger, as well, but it is definitely I think a step in the right direction to start these conversations,” the multiple grand slam winner said in a joint CNN interview with the legendary Billie Jean King.
Now 76, the feisty King whose ‘Battle of the Sexes’ with Bobby Riggs pioneered a move towards gender equality in the sport, said: “We have fought so hard, people have no idea, to get to where we are right now. And as Andy said, if we don’t have more women who are in decision-making positions, it won’t be probably as even.’’
“I’m thrilled that Roger brought it because when top male players bring something up, people listen. But what tennis people have to understand…we’re much stronger as Andy said, if we’re together, from sponsorship, to opportunities and we can grow. But what we have to understand is we have to stay together as a sport. Because we’re not competing within our sport like a lot of tennis people think.
I’m thrilled that Roger (Federer) brought it because when top male players bring something up, people listen. But what tennis people have to understand…we’re much stronger if we’re together, from sponsorship, to opportunities and we can grow.
Replying to a question from interviewer Christian Amanpour about his reputation as someone whom many women in the sport look upto, Murray said it possibly started with him employing Amelie Mauresmo as a coach. ‘‘When I came up on to the Tour, I never saw any female coaches around. That was not, to be honest, something that I thought about doing. It was actually Darren Cahill, who is an Australian coach working with Simona Halep, one of the best female players in the world just now. He suggested, you know, why not look at a female coach?
‘‘And when he said it, I thought, yes of course, why not? You know, I was coached my mum (Judy Murray) when I was young and I had a very good relationship with Olga Morozova, who Billie Jean might know. She took me on a couple of trips when I was very young, and I always got on very well with her too.
‘‘And then when I did then employ a female coach, I realized, you know, this isn’t how it normally is. You know, every time I lost a match my coach was getting blamed for it. And I never had that with any of my previous coaches. Amelie Mauresmo was a former world number one, a Grand Slam champion, fantastic player, extremely qualified to coach. And that was when I realized there was - you know, this was a problem and you start to see it more and more. And that was when I started to talk to my mom a little bit more about it. She’s someone who’s been inspired, I think, by Billie Jean’s work,’’ Murray observed.
Asked about improving the lot of the fringe tennis players, who are left without any earning during this phase of sporting lockdown, Murray said: Well, I mean, the ATP have set up a tennis player relief fund to help the players ranked between 200 and 700 in the world, who obviously are not making any money just now. So, I think that was a positive initiative.
‘‘But there’s also been some resistance to that from some players, as well. You know, but I, yes, have given some money to that fund to try to help some of the tennis players.
‘‘And, you know, hopefully, there might - you know, in a few months’ time, you know, there might be some events that is we can put on as well to help raise some more money for those players because, you know, they will be the ones feeling it the most just now. And the players ranked in that ranking bracket will also be the future of our sport as well. There will be some young players coming through just now that will go on to be Grand Slam champions and the number one top 10 players in the world.
‘‘Yes, it’s important that we try to support those players now in any way that we can,’’ Murray added.